Is there space for webOS? [from the forums] 43
The webOS Nation Forums have always been a font of awesomeness, and there's no sign that's going to stop anytime soon. Some of our favorite moments come about when somebody poses an interesting question and the community runs with it. We've been having one of those moments since yesterday, when mattmers asked "Is the OS market too full for webOS?" Matt put together a daunting list. On top of the mobile operating system pile are Android and iOS, with Windows Phone 8 and soon BlackBerry 10 fighting for a distant third place. Then there's the bottom tier, a group of operating systems fighting for recognition from a carrier or manufacturer, let alone sales. They include Firefox OS, Sailfish OS, our beloved webOS, and the recently-announced Ubuntu for phones.
In an operating system market with two dominant players and two duking it out for a distant third place, is there really space for four different operating systems to be engaged in a battle royale for the attention of manufacturers, carriers, developers, and users? Compelling reasons to pick from this crop of unloved operating systems are few when there are established options like Android and iOS available for all parties involved. That's not to say that we don't love webOS; we do, but there's no way we could in good faith recommend to a friend that they go seek out a Pre3 or a TouchPad or hack Open webOS onto their Galaxy Nexus (at least not yet…).
As Windows Phone and BlackBerry show, there's a question of if there's even a viable third place in this hyper-competitive market. Let alone a fourth, fifth, or sixth player. Apple, Google, and Samsung have succeeded at convincing users, developers, and carriers to go with their hardware and software, and it's increasingly becoming a two-party race in smartphones. The jury's still out on tablets, with Microsoft's Windows 8 and Windows RT still playing out, but with the high turnover and subsidized prices of smartphones it's getting harder and harder to break in with each passing day.
Of course, there's a question of if webOS needs the be on smartphones to survive. Despite being on a dozen carriers world-wide for years and carrying the brand power of Palm and HP, webOS never quite took off like we would have liked. There's a multitude of reasons for that failure and we won't bother opening up that wound again, but it's entirely possible that the door has closed on smartphones for webOS. There's still definitely an opportunity for tablets, but things would have to get rolling in the very near future before that door closes too.
In all of the rumors and rumblings of what HP/Gram is doing, we've yet to hear a peep about smartphones. In fact, the biggest story of what Gram is working on hasn't been a smartphone or a tablet, but a partnership with LG to produce a webOS-powered smart television. Whether or not webOS will be a good fit for an HDTV, well, we'll have to see it first before we pass judgement, but it speaks to the flexibility of webOS as a multi-purpose operating system. It's entirely possible we'll never see another webOS smartphone or webOS tablet, but that webOS will still live on successfully in other applications. But when it comes to fan bases and communities, that's much harder to maintain when you're talking about televisions or (just ruminating here) automobile nav units or refrigerators. But we'll cross that bridge if an when we get to it.